St. Gregory Nazianzus (329 – 389)
Human Work in Paradise
(Referring to the command to “dress and keep creation” in Genesis 2:15) This being (man) He placed in Paradise… to till the immortal plants, by which is perhaps meant the Divine conceptions, both the simpler and the more perfect.
~ Second Oration on Easter VIII. In Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Edition, Vol. VII. Ed. Philip Schaff. Cosimo, Inc., 2007, p. 425.
Creation is a System and Compound of Earth and Sky
Creation is a system and compound of earth and sky and all that is in them, an admirable creation indeed when we look at the beautiful form of every part, but yet more worthy of admiration when we consider the harmony and unison of the whole, and how each part fits with every other in fair order, and all with the whole, tending to the perfect completion of the world as a unit.
~ Orations 38:10 as quoted by D. Wallace-Hadrill in The Greek Patristic View of Nature, Manchester University Press, Manchester, 1968, pg. 104.
Appreciation of the Beauty of Natural Scenery
(Gregory describes the view around his hermitage.) There is a high mountain covered with a thick forest, watered on its northerly side by cool and transparent streams. At its base is outstretched an evenly sloping plain, ever enriched by moisture from the mountains. A forest of many-colored and multifarious trees, a spontaneous growth, surrounding the place, acts almost as a hedge to enclose it, so that even Calypso’s isle, which Homer seems to have admired above all others for itself….
Adjoining my dwelling is another neck of land which supports at its summit a lofty ridge. so that from the former the plain below lies outspread before the eyes, and from the elevation we may gaze upon the encircling river, which in my mind at least furnishes no less pleasure than they who receive their first impression from the top of the Amphipolis….
Why need I mention the exhalations from the land, or the breezes from the river? Someone else might well marvel at the multitudes of the flowers or of the song of birds; but I have not leisure to turn my thoughts to these. The highest praise however which I can give to the place is that, although it is well adapted by its admirable situation to producing fruits of every kind, for me the most pleasing fruit it nourishes is tranquility, not only because it is far removed from the disturbances of the city, but also because it attracts not even a wayfarer, except the guests who join me. Besides its other excellences, it abounds in game, not those of bears and wolves, but it feeds herds of deer and wild goats, hares and animals like these.
~ Letters 14, translated by Roy Defarrari, Loeb Publ., London, 1926, and quoted by D. Wallace-Hadrill in The Greek Patristic View of Nature, Manchester University Press, Manchester, 1968, pg. 87-88.
How God’s Essence Infuses the World
For He is the Maker of all these things, filling all with His essence, containing all things, filling the world in His essence, yet incapable of being comprehended in His power by the world; good, upright, princely, by nature not by adoption; sanctifying, not sanctified; measuring, but not measured; shared, not sharing; filling, not filled; containing, not contained….
~ On the Holy Spirit, XXIX. In Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Edition, Vol. VII. Ed. Philip Schaff. Cosimo, Inc., 2007, 327.
A New Creation is Coming to Birth
Today is the day of salvation for the world. Christ is risen from the dead: arise with him…. The old Adam is superseded, the new perfected. In Christ a new creation is coming to birth: therefore renew yourselves.
~ “Oration 45, For Easter,” 1:1 (PG 36: 624). In The Roots of Christian Mysticism. Oliver Clement. New City Press, 1995, p. 53.
Prayer to the Creator of Creation
You alone are unutterable,
From the time you created all things that can be spoken of.
You alone are unknowable,
From the time you created all things that can be known.
All things cry out about you;
Those which speak and those which cannot speak.
All things honor you;
those which think, and those which cannot think.
For there is one longing, one groaning,
that all things have for you….
All things pray to you that comprehend your plan
and offer you a silent hymn.
In you, the One, all things abide,
and all things endlessly run to you Who art the end of all.
~ Quoted in Andrew Linzey, Compassion for Animals, SPCK Publ., London, 1988, pg. 14.
Christ Cleanses the Entire World
The great Son is the glory of the Father and shone out from him like light…. He assumed a body to bring help to suffering creatures…. He was both sacrifice and celebrant, sacrificial priest and God himself. He offered blood to God to cleanse the entire world.
~ Quoted in Andrew Linzey, Compassion for Animals: Readings and Prayers, SPCK Publ., London, 1988, pg. 81.
A gentle and peaceful man who was not prolific with his writings so much as profound, St. Gregory Nazianzus has been uniquely honored as the only Greek father with the special title, “the theologian.” He is known as one of the three Cappadocean Fathers, one of the four Eastern doctors of the Church, and one of those especially responsible for the defeat of the Arian heresy. He loved solitude and was easily dismayed by the strife and conflict of the world. Even though he sought a quiet, simple life, circumstances combined with his brilliant oratorical skills continually called him out of seclusion into positions of leadership. He sees all of creation as recapitulated within the microcosm of the human person, not just because both are creatures of God, but because of the manner in which the individual carries the image of God.
Man in Transition to Deification
The Craftsman-Word… produced a single living being formed out of both (I mean the invisible and the visible natures); he produced man. He took the body from already existing matter and put in it a breath taken from himself (which the Word [of Scripture] knows as the intelligent soul and image of God).
This man He (God) set upon the earth as a kind of second world, a microcosm; another kind of angel, a worshiper of blended nature, a full initiate of the visible creation but a mere neophyte in respect of the intelligible world. He was king of all upon the earth, but a subject of heaven; earthly and heavenly, transient yet immortal; belonging both to the visible and to the intelligible order; midway between greatness and lowliness; combining in the same being spirit and flesh; spirit because of God’s grace; flesh because raised up from the dust; spirit, so that he may endure, and glory his benefactor; flesh that he may suffer, and by suffering, may be reminded and chastened when his greatness makes him ambitious. Thus he is a living creature under God’s Providence here, while in transition to another state and … in process of deification by reason of his natural tendency toward God.
~ “Orations” 45:8. In The Later Christian Fathers. Ed. Henry Bettenson. New York, Oxford University Press, 1970, p. 101.
The Challenge to Each Person of Selflessness
God created man like an animal who has received the order to become God. To execute this order, one must refuse it.
~ Orations, quoted by Vladimir Lossky in Orthodox Theology, an Introduction. St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1979, p. 73.
How is the Universe Maintained?
Let us suppose that the existence of the universe is spontaneous. To what will you ascribe its order? If you like, we will grant even that (that it also emerged spontaneously). But to what then will you ascribe its preservation and its being maintained in the terms of its first existence? Something else, or is that also spontaneous? Surely to something other than chance! But what else can this be, except God? Thus reason, which is from God, and is implanted in all of us, which is our first law and is participated in by all, leads us to God through the things which we can see.
~ Second Theological Oration, 28.16. Quoted in Faith of the Early Fathers, by W.A. Jurgens, Liturgical Press, 1970, p. 30.
The Animals Reflect their Maker
Who among men knows all the names of the wild beasts? Or who can accurately discern the physiology of each? But if of the wild beasts we know not even their names, how shall we comprehend the Maker of them? God’s command was but one which said, “Let the earth bring forth wild beasts, and cattle, and creeping things, after their kinds” (Gen. 1:24), and from one earth and from one command have sprung diverse natures, the gentle sheep and the carnivorous lion, and the various instincts of irrational animals, bearing resemblance to the various characters within men; the fox to manifest the craft that is in men, and the snake the venomous treachery of friends, and the neighing horse the wantonness of young men, and the laborious ant to arouse the sluggish and the dull: for when a man passes his youth in idleness, then he is instructed by the irrational animals, being reproved by the divine Scripture saying, “Go to the ant, thou sluggard, see and emulate her ways, and become wiser than she” (Proverbs 6:6). For w hen you see her treasuring up her food, imitate her and treasure up for yourself fruits of good works for the world to come….
Is not the Artificer worthy the rather to be glorified? For what? If you know not the nature of all things, do the things which have been made then become useless? Can you know the efficacy of all herbs? OR can you learn the benefits which derive from every animal? Even from venomous adders have come antidotes for the preservation of men. But you will say to me, “the poisonous snake is terrible.” Fear you the Lord and it will not be able to hurt you. “A scorpion stings.” Fear the Lord and it shall not sting you. “A lion is blood-thirsty.” Fear the Lord, and he shall lie down beside you, as by Daniel. But truly wonderful also is the action of the animals: how some, as the scorpion, have the sharpness of a sting; and others have power in their teeth; and others do battle with their claws; while the basilisk’s power is his gaze. So then from this varied workmanship, understand the Creator’s power.
~ Catechetical Lectures, Lecture IX:13-14, in The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 7, Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI, 1893, 1989, p. 54.
Humanity is Called to Contemplate Creation
The great architect of the universe conceived and produced a being endowed with both natures, the visible and the invisible. God created the human being, bringing its body forth from the pre-existing matter which he animated with His own Spirit…. Thus in some way a new universe was born, small and great at one and the same time.
God set this “hybrid” worshiper on earth to contemplate the visible world, and to be initiated into the invisible; to reign over earth’s creatures, and to obey orders from on high. He created a being at once earthly and heavenly, insecure and immortal, visible and invisible, halfway between greatness and nothingness, flesh and spirit at the same time… an animal en route to another native land, and, most mysterious of all, made to resemble God by simple submission to the divine will.
~ Oration 45, For Easter 7 (PG 36:850) as quoted in Olivier Clement, The Roots of Christian Mysticism, New City Press, New York, NY, 1995, p. 77.